At Speed


At Speed

Traveling the Long Road between Two Points

W. Scott Olsen

188 pages


November 2012


$16.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

From the lowest highway in North America to the highest, W. Scott Olsen takes readers on a journey that is more about going than about getting there. These are stories of travel as it is lived, essays about motion and the desire to keep moving. In a companionable style that puts readers in the passenger seat, Olsen describes his travels through the United States, observing the world close-up as it rushes toward and then away from his old Jeep.

The Upper Peninsula in March, a one-day drive from Death Valley to Mount Evans, a harrowing trip from Fargo to Spokane in the dead of winter: these journeys and others offer opportunities for Olsen’s unconventional narrative to take flight in exploring the intricacies of America, its small towns, its people, its roads, its histories, and its landscapes in vistas long and short that might otherwise be overlooked. In Olsen’s hands, travels along the most American routes of the heartland become an addictive tale that will appeal to anyone who has ever wondered what lies over the next hill.

Author Bio

W. Scott Olsen is a professor of English at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. In addition to being editor in chief of Ascent, a literary magazine of fiction, essays, and poetry, he is the author of several books, including Gravity, The Allure of Distance: Essays on the Act of Travel, as well as the editor of several anthologies, including A Year in Place.


"Olsen's journeys across America, with no companion except the radio in his battered Jeep, are splendidly evocative of the American landscape from frozen prairie to subtropical sea. With playful irony and poetic insight, he shows that long-distance driving, far from being 'just one long, boring drive' as a gas station clerk warns him, can be a rich source of imaginative meaning."—Leo Damrosch, Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University and National Book Award finalist in Nonfiction for Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius

"Reading At Speed is like opening a road map to have it come alive in your hands."—Peter Chilson, winner of the AWP Nonfiction Award for Riding The Demon: On The Road in West Africa

“It’s not where he goes, but what he sees and how he glowingly describes the scenes that make this book a pleasure to read.”—Booklist

“Describing several trips, ranging the continent from Death Valley to Kansas City to the Alaska Highway, Olsen stirs our own memories of the road, that sense of the leaving and returning to the places we have known. . . . His writing is spirited, smooth and fast.” —Ray Vandersall, High Country News

“Writing in the great tradition of American road books, W. Scott Olsen has produced an engaging set of essays which hurtle forward on sheer momentum. . . . By narrating his sojourns down the road, Olsen effectively drops the reader into the passenger seat. . . . When you have finished the last page of the last long drive, you’ll find yourself reaching to unbuckle a seat belt, turning to Olsen and saying, ‘Thanks for the ride.’”—Naton Leslie, Mid-American Review

“[Olsen] has the rare ability to catch cultural highlights and report them verbally by merely traveling through the vast expanses of the Midwest. Bu the narrative does not remain confined to it. . . . What makes this narrative alluring is that the author manages to shed a different light on many places he visits and takes away the cliché of tediousness with which these places are often associated. . . . This travel book is a good read, and I emphatically recommend it to people interested in places off the beaten track.”—North Dakota Quarterly

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements  ix
The Climb  1
The Road in Winter  31
Mids  49
The Other Road in Winter  61
From the Notebooks  73
What May Be Coming  85

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